Military judge is considering the punishment for the private who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks.
“There may be no soldier in the history of the Army who displayed such an extreme disregard,” Army Capt. Joe Morrow said of the 25-year-old former junior intelligence analyst in Iraq. “At least 60 years is justified. Pfc. Manning is young. He deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in prison.”
But the defense team, led by David Coombs, said the government is “only interested in punishment” rather than “the needs of the individual soldier.” He urged the judge to impose a sentence short enough to permit Manning to make parole and someday return to society.
“The defense requests a sentence that allows him to have a life,” he said.
The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, said she will begin considering the sentence Tuesday. The maximum term she could give Manning is 90 years, without the ability to apply for parole until he has served a third of his sentence.
In the trial, prosecutors portrayed Manning as an arm of Al-Qaida by giving the group access to more than 700,000 confidential diplomatic cables, war logs and terrorist detainee assessments when he provided the cache in 2010 to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
The defense characterized him as a whistleblower who wanted the public to see secret material that he believed proved the United States was untruthful about how it was carrying out two wars and international diplomacy.
The judge acquitted Manning of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, but convicted him on others, including six counts of violating the Espionage Act.
Morrow also asked that Manning pay a fine of $100,000 to help defray the costs of assessing the damage he caused with the leaks, which had made their way to Al-Qaida’s leader. “The information was found in the digital media of Osama bin Laden,” he said.
He noted that Manning filled a “most wanted list” of classified documents sought by WikiLeaks and knew exactly how to circumvent safeguards protecting secret material. “Pfc. Manning was fully aware of the weaknesses in the system, and he took full advantage of those weaknesses,” the prosecutor said. In asking for a 60-year sentence, Morrow told the judge: “This court must send a message. National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously.”
Morrow dismissed defense contentions that Manning might not have leaked the material if he had received mental health counseling because he was gay and struggling with a “gender identity disorder.” Morrow said there are thousands of gay and lesbian military service members who have not betrayed their miliary oaths.
Coombs described a completely different Manning. He said his client was “young, naive, had limited experience and good intentions” when he began leaking the material to spark a debate to end the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.